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'If this guy is clearly way better than everybody else in his peer group, then it makes sense'

Andy Dunne and The42′s Murray Kinsella discuss Munster prospect Keynan Knox and the issue of recruiting players out of school abroad.

SOUTH AFRICAN YOUNGSTER Keynan Knox was among five Munster players to receive a contract extension on Wednesday, with the soon-to-be Irish-qualified tighthead prop penning a deal which ties him to the southern province until 2022.

South African born and bred, Knox was signed straight out of school in late 2017 along with compatriot Matt More, an outside centre.

The prodigious front-row talent was one of the topics of conversation on this week’s The42 Rugby Weekly, in which Murray Kinsella and Andy Dunne pondered as to whether this type of recruitment is detrimental to the sport in Ireland or potentially beneficial in small doses.

A word of warning: Eddie Hekenui is mentioned seven times during this discussion.

Keynan Knox Keynan Knox, a potential future Irish international. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Murray Kinsella: “He (Knox) will stay in the academy next year, and then for the remaining two years of that contract he’ll go to the senior squad.

“He came over with another South African youngster, Matt More, just at the end of 2017. So, they’ll actually qualify for Ireland in the three-year period rather than the five-year period.

“I just want to get your take on it, Andy. Like, his pedigree is superb: he came out of that Michaelhouse school that produced Pat Lambie, Robbie Diack, a couple of other guys who have gone on to achieve things. He played for the Sharks in that Craven Week, which is a massive schoolboy competition.

“Knox was rated as one of the best prospects in the country (South Africa), as was Matt Moore. Interestingly enough, they have the same agent as Johann van Graan so there’s the link there.

“I just want to get your (Andy’s) take on it. I tend to get tweets about him from a lot of angry people, probably outside Munster, saying it’s wrong that at this level, they’re taking a South African schoolboy and trying to produce him.”

Andy Dunne: “Ultimately, I think I’m okay with it. If he becomes someone who is a cornerstone of the Munster pack and the Irish pack — there’s nobody harumphing about CJ Stander who was born and bred in South Africa.

Suddenly, if it happens five years earlier at academy level, I get that there’s going to be some pretty disenfranchised young tightheads, and parents of tightheads, and coaches of that tighthead in the schools system. But as long as it doesn’t become prevalent on a scale that there’s five or six of them coming through every year to step in the way — if this guy is clearly way better than everybody else in his peer group, then it makes sense.

“I think where it goes wrong — and Leinster have completely changed their policy on this — [but] Leinster in the mid-’90s used to get guys in from the southern hemisphere and, like, they were horrible, horrible duds. They were awful rugby players but they had a southern-hemisphere accent.

“You’re talking about guys like Tony Goldfinch, Aaron — I can’t remember, Aaron…”

MK: “– Eddie Hekenui?”

AD: “Eddie Hekenui is right in there!”

MK: “Poor old Eddie Hekenui, the much-maligned Eddie Hekenui…”

AD: “Yeah, maligned because they weren’t good enough! And in my personal [experience], I was certainly behind Eddie. You know, Nathan Spooner was brought in. He was brilliant. He was an international player and he was established.

Eddie Hekenui was a third-division club player who was a forklift driver. Nothing against that! But he wasn’t a professional rugby player. But he was brought in ahead of a young Irish professional: me! Obviously, I’m still annoyed about that one.
That doesn’t make sense, but Nathan Spooner coming in does. The Tony Goldfinch/Eddie Hekenui thing I get people being annoyed about. But this guy [Keynan Knox] appears, from what I’ve heard, to be an outstanding prospect, will be Irish-qualified and [I hope] is more of a once-off-type policy than ‘let’s use this going forward in general’.

MK: “It’s a professional sport. Obviously, rugby is years and years and decades behind football, but that’s the way it’s gone in that sport because you’re under so much pressure to achieve and succeed and fill your stadium.

“In Munster’s eyes, Keynan Knox is a better prospect than the local tightheads were in that age grade. He is an exciting prospect for Munster fans, and I guess that’s the nature of the game now.”

Also discussed on this week’s show was ‘Snotgate’ and Nico Lee’s ban for on-field crimes of the nasal variety, as well as London Irish potentially becoming a ‘fifth province’, Johnny Sexton’s need for game time ahead of the Rugby World Cup and the most interesting aspects of the first week of the new Super Rugby season.

Joy Neville also joins the podcast to discuss her remarkable rise as a referee, and you can also read that interview here.

You can listen to this week’s The42 Rugby Weekly below:

Murray Kinsella, Andy Dunne and Gavan Casey look ahead to Ireland’s Six Nations meeting with Italy and discuss the week’s biggest stories in the latest episode of The42 Rugby Weekly.

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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